Soldier Field to host 2 hockey games

CHICAGO -- Chicago native Sam Calabrese gave up his childhood dream of running out onto Soldier Field as a Chicago Bears player some years ago when he decided hockey was going to be his sport.

Ironically, it's now hockey that's going to give him the opportunity to live out his dream.

Calabrese, a senior defenseman on Notre Dame's hockey team, will take park in the Hockey City Classic, a college hockey doubleheader, at Soldier Field on Feb. 17, 2013. It will be the first time a hockey game has been held at the stadium.

The doubleheader -- Notre Dame vs. Miami and Minnesota vs. Wisconsin – will come at the end of two weeks' worth of ice-rink related events at Soldier Field. The Chicago Park District also will offer two days of free public ice skating, high school and adult hockey events and private ice rentals.

"I always wondered what it would be like to be a Bears player, but never to be a hockey player," said Calabrese, who attended a news conference at Soldier Field on Wednesday. "To get that opportunity in Chicago, being from here (Park Ridge) and having a huge alumni network here is going to be unbelievable. It's going to be a great experience and one we'll never forget."

Chicago is no stranger to outdoor hockey. The NHL Winter Classic was held at Wrigley Field between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings in 2009.

Former Blackhawks coach and player Denis Savard, who was present at Wednesday's news conference, believes the Hockey City Classic has that same potential.

"It was a great event, something people will remember forever the one we had Wrigley Field, us and Detroit," Savard said. "I think this one will be as close as what it was at Wrigley Field. It should be a great day. I'm sure Chicago is going to support this."

Chicago Park District superintendent and CEO Mike Kelly was also pleased to be bringing outdoor hockey back to Chicago.

"We've been looking to getting hockey at Soldier Field for some time," Kelly said. "We've had NATO; we've had rock concerts. We were jealous too when it was in Wrigley Field. But this is a great opportunity for us to bring hockey here, and I think this is going to show we're a great venue, and it's going to be great for hockey."

Kelly also didn't anticipate any obstacles in creating a hockey rink at Soldier Field.

"A football field is so big," Kelly said. "It's the same configuration visually as it was for baseball. This is a place built for winter. All your concerns -- turning the TV on, running water, concessions -- this is place is built for February. This will place perform top notch."

Calabrese wouldn't mind, though, if the outdoors conditions were a bit wintery.

"You want to hope you can play how your game normally goes, but I think it would be cool if it was snowing," Calabrese said. "You've seen in the Winter Classic a couple times where there's been snow coming down and the guys are having fun with it. But it's a regular-season game and we have to treat it like that. It's going to be toward the end of the season. It's going to be a big game against a big rival."